Изображения страниц




Nov. 6th.

Death of


CHAP. THIS year the sudden death of Henry, prince of Wales, diffused an universal grief throughout the nation. Though 1612. youth and royal birth, both of them strong allurements, prepossess men mightily in favour of the early age of princes, it is with peculiar fondness that historians mention Henry; and, in every respect, his merit seems to have been extraordinary. He had not reached his eighteenth year, and he already possessed more dignity in his behaviour, and commanded more respect, than his father, with all his age, learning, and experience. Neither his high fortune, nor his youth, had seduced him into any irregular pleasures: business and ambition seem to have been his sole passion. His inclinations, as well as exercises, were martial. The French ambassador, taking leave of him, and asking his commands for France, found him employed in the exercise of the pike; Tell your king, said he, in what occupation you left me engaged". He had conceived great affection and esteem for the brave Sir Walter Raleigh. It was his saying, Sure no king but my father would keep such a bird in a cage. He seems indeed to have nourished too violent a contempt for the king on account of his pedantry and pusillanimity, and by that means struck in with the restless and martial spirit of the English nation. Had he lived, he had probably promoted the glory, perhaps not the felicity, of his people. The unhappy prepossession, which men commonly entertain in favour of ambition, courage, enter

a The French monarch had given particular orders to his ministers to cultivate the prince's friendship; who must soon, said he, have chief authority in England, where the king and queen are held in so little estimation. See Dep. de la Boderie, vol. i. p. 402. 415; vol. ii. p. 16. 349.

b Coke's Detection, p. 37.

prise, and other warlike virtues, engages generous natures, who always love fame, into such pursuits as destroy their own peace, and that of the rest of mankind.




Violent reports were propagated, as if Henry had been carried off by poison; but the physicians, on opening his body, found no symptoms to confirm such an opinion. The bold and criminal malignity of men's tongues and pens spared not even the king on the occasion. But that prince's character seems rather to have failed in the extreme of facility and humanity, than in that of cruelty and violence. His indulgence to Henry was great, and perhaps imprudent, by giving him a large and independent settlement, even in so early youth.

The marriage of the Princess Elizabeth, with Frederic, Elector Palatine, was finished some time after the death of the prince, and served to dissipate the grief which arose on that melancholy event. But this marriage, Feb. 14. Marriage though celebrated with great joy and festivity, proved of the itself an unhappy event to the king, as well as to his son- Princess in-law, and had ill consequences on the reputation and with the fortunes of both. The elector, trusting to so great an Palatine. alliance, engaged in enterprises beyond his strength; and the king, not being able to support him in his distress, lost entirely, in the end of his life, what remained of the affection and esteem of his own subjects.



Except during sessions of Parliament, the history of this reign may more properly be called the history of the court than that of the nation. An interesting object had, Rise of for some years, engaged the attention of the court; it was a favourite, and one beloved by James with so profuse and unlimited an affection, as left no room for any rival or competitor. About the end of the year 1609, Robert Carre, a youth of twenty years of age, and of a good family in Scotland, arrived in London, after having passed some time in his travels. All his natural accomplishments consisted in good looks: all his acquired abilities, in an easy air and graceful demeanour. He had letters of recommendation to his countryman Lord Hay; and that nobleman no sooner cast his eye upon him, than he discovered talents sufficient to entitle him immediately to make a great figure in the government. Kennet, p. 690. Coke, p. 37. Welwood, p. 272.




CHAP. Apprized of the king's passion for youth and beauty, and exterior appearance, he studied how matters might be so 1613. managed that this new object should make the strongest impression upon him. Without mentioning him at court, he assigned him the office, at a match of tilting, of presenting to the king his buckler and device, and hoped that he would attract the attention of the monarch. Fortune proved favourable to his design, by an incident which bore at first a contrary aspect. When Carre was advancing to execute his office, his unruly horse flung him, and broke his leg in the king's presence. James approached him with pity and concern: love and affection arose on the sight of his beauty and tender years; and the prince ordered him immediately to be lodged in the palace, and to be carefully attended. He himself, after the tilting, paid him a visit in his chamber, and frequently returned during his confinement. The ignorance and simplicity of the boy finished the conquest, begun by his exterior graces and accomplishments. Other princes have been fond of choosing their favourites from among the lower ranks of their subjects, and have reposed themselves on them with the more unreserved confidence and affection, because the object has been beholden to their bounty for every honour and acquisition: James was desirous that his favourite should also derive from him all his sense, experience, and knowledge. Highly conceited of his own wisdom, he pleased himself with the fancy that this raw youth, by his lessons and instructions, would, in a little time, be equal to his sagest ministers, and be initiated into all the profound mysteries of government, on which he set so high a value. And as this kind of creation was more perfectly his own work than any other, he seems to have indulged an unlimited fondness for his minion, beyond even that which he bore to his own children. He soon knighted him, created him Viscount Rochester, gave him the garter, brought him into the privy council, and, though at first without assigning him any particular office, bestowed on him the supreme direction of all his business and political concerns. Agreeable to this rapid advancement in confidence and honour, were the riches heaped upon the needy favourite; and while Salisbury and all the wisest ministers could scarcely


find expedients sufficient to keep in motion the overbur- CHAP. dened machine of government, James, with unsparing hand, loaded with treasures this insignificant and useless pageant ".


It is said, that the king found his pupil so ill educated, as to be ignorant even of the lowest rudiments of the Latin tongue; and that the monarch, laying aside the sceptre, took the birch into his royal hand, and instructed him in the principles of grammar. During the intervals of this noble occupation, affairs of state would be introduced; and the stripling, by the ascendant which he had acquired, was now enabled to repay in political, what he had received in grammatical instruction. Such scenes and such incidents are the more ridiculous, though the less odious, as the passion of James seems not to have contained in it any thing criminal or flagitious. History charges herself willingly with a relation of the great crimes, and still more with that of the great virtues of mankind; but she appears to fall from her dignity, when necessitated to dwell on such frivolous events and ignoble personages.

The favourite was not, at first, so intoxicated with advancement as not to be sensible of his own ignorance and inexperience. He had recourse to the assistance and advice of a friend; and he was more fortunate in his choice, than is usual with such pampered minions. In Sir Thomas Overbury he met with a judicious and sincere counsellor, who, building all hopes of his own preferment on that of the young favourite, endeavoured to instil into him the principles of prudence and discretion. By zealously serving every body, Carre was taught to abate the envy which might attend his sudden elevation; by showing a preference for the English, he learned to escape the prejudices which prevailed against his country; and so long as he was content to be ruled by Overbury's friendly counsels, he enjoyed, what is rare, the highest favour of the prince, without being hated by the people.

To complete the measure of courtly happiness, nought was wanting but a kind mistress; and where high fortune concurred with all the graces of youth and beauty, this circumstance could not be difficult to attain. But it

d Kennet, p. 685, 686, &c.

CHAP. was here the favourite met with that rock on which all XLVII. his fortunes were wrecked, and which plunged him for ever into an abyss of infamy, guilt, and misery.


No sooner had James mounted the throne of England, than he remembered his friendship for the unfortunate families of Howard and Devereux, who had suffered for their attachment to the cause of Mary and to his own. Having restored young Essex to his blood and dignity, and conferred the titles of Suffolk and Northampton on two brothers of the house of Norfolk, he sought the farther pleasure of uniting these families by the marriage of the Earl of Essex with Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk. She was only thirteen, he fourteen years of age; and it was thought proper, till both should attain the age of puberty, that he should go abroad and pass some time in his travels. He returned into England after four years' absence, and was pleased to find his countess in the full lustre of beauty, and possessed of the love and admiration of the whole court. But when the earl approached, and claimed the privileges of a husband, he met with nothing but symptoms of aversion and disgust, and a flat refusal of any further familiarities. He applied to her parents, who constrained her to attend him into the country, and to partake of his bed; but nothing could overcome her rigid sullenness and obstinacy, and she still rose from his side without having shared the nuptial pleasures. Disgusted with reiterated denials, he at last gave over the pursuit, and separating himself from her, thenceforth abandoned her conduct to her own will and discretion.

Such coldness and aversion in Lady Essex arose not without an attachment to another object. The favourite had opened his addresses, and had been too successful in making impression on the tender heart of the young countess. She imagined that, so long as she refused the embraces of Essex, she never could be deemed his wife; and that a separation and divorce might still open the way for a new marriage with her beloved Rochester. Though their passion was so violent, and their opportunities of intercourse so frequent, that they had already indulged themselves in all the gratifications of love, they e Kennet, p. 686. g State Trials, vol. i. p. 228.

f Ibid. p. 687.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »